Galveston Bay is a shallow estuary with a surface area of 600 square miles. It is the seventh largest estuary in the country and is second only to the Chesapeake Bay in productivity. The Bay’s depth averages 6 to 12 feet, except along the 51-mile long Houston Ship Channel where dredged depth is 45 feet.
The economic health of the region depends heavily on the environmental health of Galveston Bay.
The Bay offers diverse habitats, including wetlands, oyster reefs, river delta, mud flats, sandbars and open water. Wetlands and submerged aquatic vegetation filter water, provide nursery areas for fish and shellfish, and protect the land from erosion. Colonial waterbirds, shoredbirds, shrimp, crabs, oysters, fin-fish and many other species flourish here.
- There are approximately 110,000 bay-related jobs
- Fishing and business associated with the bay contribute $1 Billion to the local economy each year.
- 90% of the commercially harvested seafood species in the Gulf of Mexico and its bay systems require estuarine environments like Galveston Bay for one or more of their life stages.
- Ten thousand recreational boats are registered in the Galveston Bay area, the third largest concentration of pleasure boats in the U.S.
- More than one-third of the state’s population and about 70% of its industrial base, commerce and jobs are located within 100 miles of the coastline.
- Texas leads the nation in marine commerce with 10 deep draft ports and over 420 miles of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
Houston, the eighth largest metropolitan area in the country, borders Galveston Bay. Over three million people live within 15 minutes of the bay. The bay influences the cultural life of the smaller communities within the area. The Blessing of the Fleet, a colorful festival opens the annual shrimping season with hopes for a bountiful harvest. One-third of the households in the counties bordering the bay use it at least once a year for recreational purposes, such as windsurfing, sailing, and sport fishing, yet parts of the bay are degraded to unsafe levels of pollutants in the water. More than half of the state’s wastewater discharge permits are sited within the estuary’s watershed. These facts underscore the significance of conflicting human uses impacting the bay system.
Protection of Galveston Bay is vital to the state’s economic future. Throughout history, Galveston Bay is linked to our food supply, transportation, oil and gas production, and recreation. The surrounding watershed is used for urban development, petroleum and petrochemical production and agricultural uses. Currently, the estuary accounts for one-half of the state’s recreational fishing expenditures. A majority of the total fisheries production in Texas is attributable to Galveston Bay and its estuary systems 60%- 70% of the state’s oyster fishery is concentrated here. Sport fishing, commercial fishing, and other recreational activities in the bay have an economic impact of over $1 billion each year. Protecting and enhancing the water quality of Galveston Bay benefits the bay’s ecosystems and our communities with its watershed.